Monday, August 10, 2009

10 Rules Redux

Last week we talked about the Ten Rules Elmore Leonard proposed for great fiction writing. Whether you're a reader or a writer, surely you too have some rules of thumb. Some measure of what makes writing good or even great... So what are your ten rules? Answer in comments.


  1. I like your posts. I don't know my top ten favorite rules, but here are some thoughts:

    I try not to repeat an unusual word too many times in the same manuscript. Also, I avoid using the same word--even a simple one--too often on a page. Even the same sound. Reading my work out loud can help identify repeated words and sounds. I suppose only my crit group can say whether I'm succeeding! :) I, of course, am not the first to come up with these. I've learned them along the way.

  2. I think as a reader, my number one rule would be "assume that your readers are smart enough to follow along". Meaning that nothing is more annoying that being told something more than once.
    If you tell me that your character is a red-head and it makes people assume things about her ... okay, fine. Don't tell me again. I've got it. If you feel the need to tell me that Victorian women were not meant to show their intelligence (as if you need to tell me ... I'm a reader of a Victorian-set novel, for god's sake) then you can easily just say it once and move on.

    And I am a big fan of Elmore's rule about exclamation points. Really, the words should do the talking, not the punctuation.

  3. I'm not sure that I've been writing long enough to have rules I haven't borrowed from someone else, but here are a few that I keep in mind lately:

    - Start with an objective in mind. Even if the objective changes along the way, having one to start with is a place to navigate toward.

    - Don't be afraid to let the story take the lead. Stories change as they transition from mind to paper, and that's ok.

    - Don't be afraid to write crap. If you're constantly trying to write the perfect piece the first time, you'll never get it all out.

    Plus everything that amazing writers like Leonard and King have said.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).